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Vincent Van Gogh "loved life so bad, his paintings had twice the color other paintings had". So sings Jonathan Richman (on Rockin' and Romance).
And that tells you something about musician Allison Crowe.
A modern lover of music, blogger Muruch frames it like this: "There's really no way to convey through mere words how much the music... moves me, or how I want other people to listen to and adore it as much as I do. Allison sings with such an intensity of emotion, it's easy to see why she's often quoted as saying 'Why music? Why breathing?'... that kind of artistic passion seems extremely rare these days."
"I love singing for people," says Allison Crowe. "It's a way to connect and share with others. Communication is crucial. Just being able to do what I do, to write and sing and perform, makes me feel not only alive, but incredibly lucky. Knowing at any moment everything could change, I don't take one second for granted."
Born 31 years ago, on an island, in the harbour city of Nanaimo, B.C., today Crowe's reach is global. From a home computer on the Gulf Islands to a state ceremony in Tasmania - the audience for her songs and music videos numbers more millions each year.
"Allison Crowe has a voice to fall in love with," says UK music industry journal Record of the Day. "She is from Vancouver Island in Canada, descended from Scottish, Irish and Manx stock. She's exactly the sort of artist who can make serious headway on her own label and that's just what she's doing." Across the sea, Ray Padgett (Cover Me, SPIN, Mashable) observes: "There are some voices that speak (or sing) for themselves. You know the ones. Voices where it doesn’t matter what they sing. Voices where it doesn’t really matter what instruments support them. Solomon Burke has such a voice. Jeff Buckley had it. Allison Crowe has it too."
When this phenomenon 'from the islands' reached the mainland she steered a path clear of what Joni Mitchell knowingly calls the record industry's "style inventions". Courted by the establishment, Crowe, taking a cue from Ani DiFranco and Loreena McKennitt, chose instead to form her own label. Since 2001, Rubenesque Records Ltd. has released a series of critically and commercially successful albums: Lisa's Song+ 6 Songs; Secrets; Tidings; Live at Wood Hall; This Little Bird; Little Light; and Spiral. In Summer 2011 Allison Crowe released a double-A-side single ~ Arthur / Up to the Mountain. "Tidings Concert", a 31 (20 songs and 11 banter) track album debuted November 25, 2012. Broadcast highlights include a pair of one-hour television specials: “Allison Crowe: Inside Pandora’s Box” and “Tidings” (airing nationally on the CHUM network from 2002 – 2008).
"The first thing you notice about Allison Crowe is her voice. Rich and dark, it seems to come from a place most singers can only dream of accessing. Then there are the songs. Filled with raw passion and accompanied by Crowe's eloquent piano playing," writes Clodagh O'Connell (The Courier, Rolling Stone+). Hers is a joyous sound: "Elton John meets Edith Piaf."
Allison Crowe has performed as concert headliner on hundreds of occasions, in a dozen countries – from solo gigs in jazz caverns and grand churches, to the concert festival stage alongside the Queen’s Master of Music, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, and Britain’s Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. A sensation at the UK's John Lennon Northern Lights Festival, "Canadian angel Alison Crowe gave one of the weekend's most magical moments," says The Scotsman. Festival Director Mike Merritt describes Crowe as "awesome" and "spine-tingling", noting her performance "put hairs on the back of your neck! She brought the house down." In 2012, Allison Crowe performs live on-stage with Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet for the World Premiere of "The Doorway – Scenes from Leonard Cohen" - created and choreographed by Jorden Morris with artistic direction from the RWB's Andre Lewis.
A true grassroots success, Crowe is praised not only as a singularly talented songwriter - on themes personal as well as universal - and as a visceral performer, but, also, as a supreme interpreter of song. Her vital takes on such 21st century standards as Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" and Joni Mitchell's "River" are applauded as "truly transcendent". Her singular covers have achieved broad, even mainstream, popularity, featured by BBC Radio, and MOJO magazine among others. Acclaimed Hollywood director Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead, 300, Watchmen, Sucker Punch, Man of Steel) is an ardent fan. Allison Crowe's Tidings CD, a mix of traditional carols plus songs of joy, peace, and redemption from the modern, secular, songbook, is an emerging classic: "music for the season and all time".
"Her voice celebrates the music with a bluesy rock-gospel intensity; her controlled vibrato, silken rasp, and powerful projection rivet your attention. This is no casual background music. be prepared to be amazed," says Hamline University Professor Of Law - and CD reviewer - Carol Swanson. "Every song radiates sincerity, creative flair, and emotional intensity."
"It takes a lot of self-confidence to tackle Aretha (Franklin)'s version of 'I Never Loved a Man...' but Allison does and nails it just as good as the Queen of Soul herself. Her piano playing is equally exquisite," says Bob Muller, curator of song covers at JoniMitchell.com "Treat yourself to one of the mightiest talents on the singer-songwriter scene today."
David Powell, Welsh-based DVD & Audio tech writes: "I'm listening to 'Effortless' on (Allison Crowe's) This Little Bird album with my Pro-Ject headphone amplifier turned up about a quarter more than on most modern records. It sounds fantastic because unlike most modern records it hasn't had the **** compressed out of it to raise the loudness."
Vocalist, pianist, guitarist, songwriter, engineer, producer and arranger, Allison Crowe, born on an island in the Pacific now lives on another - on Canada's Atlantic coast, in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. From her home-base she records and tours steadily, giving legendary performances that stir together original songs with much-loved interpretations in an organic blend of rock, jazz, folk, Broadway, gospel and soul.
"Ever wonder what it would have been like to listen to a gifted singer/songwriter from Saskatchewan in a small, intimate hall before she became Joni Mitchell? Don't fret the missed opportunity. There's no need to turn back the clock. Check out Allison Crowe," says Robert Reid in The Record.
"Allison has a special gift that is so very rare in musicians today. She is true to her mind, heart and spirit," says Ross Hocker, long-time public broadcaster with NPR affiliate WGTE. Hocker, whose musical taste embraces Thelonious Monk, Bela Bartok and Charles Gounod, calls Allison Crowe's live performance "the most honest, heartfelt, and directly intimate concert in my entire life."
"In an entertainment world that increasingly genuflects at the altar of instant fame, Crowe seems an anomaly, building her career slowly and carefully," notes Adrian Chamberlain, of Canada's Times Colonist newspaper.
"Soulful. Alive. Joyous. Grievous. Real, true, music is what I want to make," says Allison Crowe.